Are New York­ers re­ally f lee­ing to Florida be­cause of lower taxes?

The Buffalo News - - WASHINGTON NEWS - By Amy Sher­man POLI­TIFACT

Florida Repub­li­can Sen. Rick Scott says he knows why New York­ers are flee­ing to Florida, and it isn’t so much about crav­ing the sun­shine and beaches.

It’s about Florida’s tax cli­mate, Scott said in a series of na­tional me­dia ap­pear­ances in March.

“Want to know why hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple have left New York and moved to Florida? I’ll be join­ing @SquawkCNBC at 7:45AM to talk about it. (Hint: lower taxes),” Scott tweeted March 20.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Jour­nal, Scott wrote: “There’s a rea­son Florida sur­passed New York as the third-largest state. There’s a rea­son Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez’s mom left New York for Florida.” (Blanca Oca­sio-Cortez told the Daily Mail that she moved to Eustis, near Or­lando, when she could no longer af­ford the New York area, and her real es­tate taxes nose­dived.)

Scott did give a nod to the Sun­shine State’s weather ad­van­tage in an ap­pear­ance on Fox and Friends: “Here is the rea­son peo­ple are com­ing: lower taxes, the weather is bet­ter.”

It’s pos­si­ble that some New York­ers are drawn to Florida be­cause the state has no per­sonal in­come tax. But we did not find enough ev­i­dence to show to what ex­tent taxes play a role in de­ci­sions by New York­ers to move to Florida. We de­cided not to rate Scott’s state­ments on our Truth-O-Me­ter.

“Bot­tom line: there is no slam­dunk, au­thor­i­ta­tive study ex­plain­ing why peo­ple in gen­eral move, or why sub­groups move,” said Ed­mund J. McMa­hon, re­search di­rec­tor at the con­ser­va­tive Em­pire Cen­ter for Pub­lic Pol­icy.

Track­ing mi­gra­tion

In terms of mi­gra­tion num­bers, there is a steady stream of New York­ers com­ing to Florida.

The U.S. Cen­sus Bureau data tracks how many peo­ple mi­grate each year be­tween states.

The data for 2015-17 showed that of the ap­prox­i­mately 20 mil­lion res­i­dents in Florida, be­tween 60,000 and 70,000 said they lived in New York the year be­fore. But this mi­gra­tion pat­tern long pre-dated Scott.

The best source of data we found on why New York­ers move to Florida comes from the Univer­sity of Florida’s Bureau of Eco­nomic and Busi­ness Re­search, which con­ducts a ran­dom tele­phone sur­vey of about 6,000 Florida res­i­dents each year.

For those who were not born in Florida, re­searchers ask re­spon­dents about their pri­mary rea­son for mov­ing to Florida. One key caveat: the data com­bines peo­ple who moved re­cently with those who ar­rived long ago.

The top three rea­sons that New York­ers moved to Florida, ac­cord­ing to the 2018 sur­vey, were fam­ily, the weather and jobs.

Those rea­sons aren’t unique to New York. They hold for peo­ple who moved to Florida from any state.

The re­searchers don’t of­fer “low taxes” as an answer choice, but it’s pos­si­ble some re­spon­dents chose “low cost of liv­ing” as the clos­est sub­sti­tute.

Also, when a re­spon­dent se­lects “other,” the in­ter­viewer asks for a more spe­cific answer. Mark Gir­son, a UF re­searcher who pulled the data for us, looked at those an­swers and found 1.3 per­cent of those that said they moved to New York from Florida due to taxes.

Closer look at tax ar­gu­ment

New York Gov. An­drew M. Cuomo, a Demo­crat, has a dif­fer­ent take from Scott about why New York­ers may look to Florida to move. He blames na­tional Repub­li­can tax pol­icy.

Cuomo says the 2017 fed­eral tax law cap­ping the SALT de­duc­tion for state in­come and prop­erty taxes cre­ates a higher eco­nomic in­cen­tive to move out of New York. It’s too soon to know whether that change has played a role in mi­gra­tion.

The 2017 fed­eral law capped how much tax­pay­ers could deduct their state and lo­cal taxes from their fed­eral taxes — some­thing that New York­ers, who have higher prop­erty taxes, had taken ad­van­tage of in the past. The new tax law now caps SALT de­duc­tions at $10,000.

A Cuomo spokesman told us that the av­er­age statewide SALT de­duc­tion is more than twice the cap ($22,168).

Christo­pher McCarty, di­rec­tor of the Univer­sity of Florida’s Bureau of Eco­nomic and Busi­ness Re­search, said the change in the SALT de­duc­tion may have cre­ated some push to Florida, but re­tirees likely had a longterm plan to move to the state.

Re­tirees are mov­ing to Florida based on in­come from So­cial Se­cu­rity, re­tire­ment in­vest­ments, and in many cases the money they make off the sale of their home in New York.

We found one other na­tional study from United VanLines, a mov­ing com­pany. It is based on house­hold moves, which in­cluded about 150 peo­ple who moved from New York to Florida in 2018. More than 50 per­cent of that group said they moved due to re­tire­ment while other com­mon rea­sons were due to a job change or lifestyle change.

Taxes isn’t a cat­e­gory that United VanLines of­fers on that sur­vey. No re­spon­dents men­tioned taxes in re­sponse to an open-ended ques­tion.

On av­er­age for the past six years, about 14 per­cent of the out-mi­gra­tion from New York has been to Florida, said Laura Schultz, di­rec­tor of fis­cal anal­y­sis and se­nior econ­o­mist at the Rock­e­feller In­sti­tute of Gov­ern­ment think tank af­fil­i­ated with the State Univer­sity of New York.

The other states that New York­ers of­ten move to are New Jersey, Penn­syl­va­nia, Cal­i­for­nia and Con­necti­cut.

“I wouldn’t con­sider New Jersey, or Cal­i­for­nia or Con­necti­cut low-tax states,” she said, speak­ing about per­sonal in­come and prop­erty taxes.

Data not con­clu­sive

Look­ing back over a decade at net mi­gra­tion over­all, the big­gest New York losses and Florida gains oc­curred just be­fore the 2007-09 re­ces­sion, said Wil­liam H. Frey, a de­mog­ra­pher and fel­low at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion. They be­gan to rise again in re­cent years be­fore last year’s slight de­cline. Shifts in the job and hous­ing mar­kets made Florida some­what less at­trac­tive to New York­ers (and else­where) dur­ing the re­ces­sion.

“It may be that rel­a­tive taxes im­pact a small seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion who have large in­comes and are will­ing to move to save tax money,” he said. “But my view is that most mi­grants in the New York to Florida stream are mak­ing de­ci­sions based on cli­mate, gen­eral qual­ity of life and ma­jor shifts in the econ­omy, like the re­ces­sion and re­gional hous­ing mar­ket de­clines.”

That’s the story for reg­u­lar folks. It might be dif­fer­ent for mil­lion­aires (like Scott). A team of re­searchers at Stan­ford re­searched mi­gra­tion by mil­lion­aires, look­ing at IRS data from 1999 to 2011. Florida was the lead­ing des­ti­na­tion for mil­lion­aire mi­gra­tion, they found, not­ing that Florida was at­trac­tive in other unique ways, such as coastal ac­cess to the Caribbean Sea.

One of those re­searchers, Cris­to­bal Young, now a so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at Cor­nell Univer­sity, told us it’s hard to say how much taxes are driv­ing such moves. More mil­lion­aires in Texas and Ten­nessee also move to Florida on net, even though there is no tax ben­e­fit, he said.

“I sus­pect a hand­ful of high-in­come earn­ers in New York will move to Florida un­der the new tax law, but not enough to mat­ter for tax pol­icy,” he said.

New York Times

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., says New York­ers are mov­ing to Florida be­cause of lower taxes. He cites that as a rea­son for the Sun­shine State sur­pass­ing New York as the third-largest state.

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